Matt Denny highlighted the Australian action as the athletics events began today, setting a new record in the discus. (Photo: Athletics Australia/Twitter)

Selemon Barega of Ethiopia won the first athletics gold at Tokyo 2020, while Aussies Matthew Denny (discus) and Brandon Starc (high jump) qualified for finals.

The first day of athletics saw one medal awarded, and a number of heats across a variety of events. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Catch up with all the day’s action with our first athletics recap of the Games.

The first medal of the track and field

The men’s 10,000m saw the first gold medal of the athletics events awarded to Selemon Barega of Ethiopia with a 27:43.22.

Uganda’s Stephen Kissa turned heads early, as he decided to sprint out in front of the pack in what was one of the more interesting long distance strategies of the night.

As the runners entered the seven minute mark, the pair of Barega and Rhonex Kipruto began to make their move, breaking away from the pack and gaining on Kissa. At 3000 metres run, the gap was very nearly closed.

The pair’s next move was to keep pace just behind Kissa, the three continuing to lead coming into the 4000 metre mark.

With 14 laps to go, the pack began to reform, Kissa still leading but by a significantly smaller length.

Aussie Patrick Tiernan slowly crawled up a few spaces coming into the second half of the monster marathon, holding up sixth from the back of the pack after trailing last early.

At 16 minutes, Sam Atkin of Great Britain pulled out of the race, limping meekly off the track.

Kissa lost the lead for the first time with a shade over nine laps left to run, Kipruto slowly but surely shoring up the lead.

Almost seconds after his lead was taken, Kissa pulled out of the race to the confusion of commentators and viewers alike. There were talks of possible pace-setting antics, but a bizarre decision regardless.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei took over the front post, holding it until four laps remained, Rodgers Kwemoi from Kenya getting right up in his face and swapping back and forth heading into the third lap.

Tiernan took his pace up to ninth, gaining inch by inch on the leaders. Two laps left, and Tiernan sat sixth, holding steadfast. He couldn’t maintain the pace however, falling behind the leading group in the final lap.

After keeping with the pack after taking it right up to Kissa, Barega left his run perfectly and claimed the first athletics gold at Tokyo 2020. Cheptegei claimed silver just .41 of a second behind, and fellow Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo bronze.

Tiernan didn’t have a shred of energy coming into the final stretch, collapsing as he approached the line but still managing to make it over 19th.

Rise and shine: Aussies qualify in the morning session

Matthew Denny was the headliner in the morning athletics session, setting an Australian Olympic record in the discus as he qualified for the final.

He threw a massive 65.13m, just four metres behind the Olympic record and qualifying fourth overall. The only men to throw the discus further were Slovenia’s Kristjan Ceh (65.45), Lithuania’s Andrius Gudzius (65.94) and Sweden’s Daniel Stahl (66.12).

Meanwhile in the high jump, Brandon Starc made his first clearance attempt of 2.28m to advance straight through to the final on Sunday night.

His jump was the second highest in Group B, three centimetres behind the ROC’s Mikhail Akimenko with a huge 2.28m.

It was an easy path through to the final jump for Starc, clearing the bar with ease time after time and looking to be one of the strongest athletes in the high jump pool.

Despite some disqualification drama, debut Olympian Ben Buckingham managed to put up a personal best time in the 3000m steeplechase with a 8:20:95, and the fourth fastest of any Australian.

In what were a strong group of heats, Buckingham couldn’t qualify through to Monday’s final, eliminated alongside fellow Aussies Ed Trippas and Matthew Clarke.

Over in the women’s 800m heats, Morgan Mitchell clocked a 2:05:44 but failed to qualify, finishing sixth in her heat. Catriona Bisset put up a faster time with a 2:01:65, but also failed to qualify.

Hana Basic had the hopes of the nation on her shoulders in the 100m sprint, and put up an incredible 11:32 in her first ever Olympic race.

While it just barely wasn’t enough to qualify to the semi-finals, her determination and resilience was a shining example of the Australian spirit that we all know and love in our greatest athletes. Watch out for the Basic name in the future.

The best of the rest of the world

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah looks determined to keep her title as the fastest woman in the world, the defending gold medallist qualifying at the top of her heat with a 10.82.

It was Rio fourth placed Marie-Josee Ta Lou who put up the fastest time of the day however, searching for that elusive podium. Her 10.78 from her heat would have seen her place silver in the Rio final.

Ta Lou has had to wait a long time for her redemption, and if today’s result was anything to go off, she’s eyeing off the title of fastest woman in the world.

The top three fastest results in the men’s 3000m steeplechase, to no surprise, came in the final heat.

Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, on Olympic debut, ran a 8:09.83 after winning silver in the event in the 2019 World Championships. This was just .09 of a second faster than second placed Ryuji Miura from Japan, who was hot on Girma’s heels from start to end.

Suffice it to say that Monday’s final could come down to the wire.

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The women’s 800m was an incredibly close affair across every heat in a highly competitive field.

Jamaica’s Natoya Goule qualified for the semi final in first with a time of 1:59.83, but the slowest qualifier was not even three seconds slower. Keep a close eye on the semi finals tomorrow, and the final on Tuesday. It’s set to be one of the tightest middle distance events of the Games.

The men’s 400m hurdles heats rounded out the morning. Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba qualified fastest through to the semi final with a 48.38.

Running at night

The gruelling women’s 5000m heats kicked off the night’s action, with Aussies Rose Davies, Jenny Blundell and Isobel Batt-Doyle all competing for a spot in the final.

Japan’s Ririka Hironaka led the pack early in the first heat, and kept coming into the final five laps, but fell behind late. Davies dropped off quickly to the back of the group, and crossed the line second last, looking absolutely exhausted and collapsing in a heap.

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took first, but it was tight in the top four. Agnes Jebet Tirop from Kenya came in not even a second behind her, the whole top four within a second of each other.

Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi and Ejgayehu Taye also qualified, as did Lilian Kasait Rengeruk for Kenya.

The second heat was much more positive for the Aussies, Blundell taking the lead and holding it through the first five minutes. She would be overtaken by Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi, slowly falling further and further back.

Obiri of Kenya shot up into the lead at the nine minute mark, but Niyonsaba and her distinctive white dreads were never far behind.

Slovenian Klara Lukan pulled out with three laps to go, unable to go on any further.

Blundell would ultimately finish in 11th with a 15:11.27, leader Gudaf Tsegay from Ethiopia qualifying first with a 14:55.74.

For the first time at an Olympic Games, the 4x100m mixed relay took place, with two heats.

Both races were near dead heats, barely anything in them. The USA and Dominican Republic were disqualified in the first heat, but from Belgium in first to Nigera in fifth, not even a second separated them.

The second was the significantly faster of the two, top placers Poland and the Netherlands both finishing with sub 3:11 times. Jamaica also qualified alongside them.

Field of stars

The field events of the night included qualifiers for the women’s shot put and triple jump events.

It was a night of dominance for the Chinese women with shotput in hand, three athletes from China qualifying through to the final.

Gong Lijiao and Song Jiayuan qualified at the top of Group B, both throwing over 19 metres to smash the 18.80 minimum qualification window.

American Raven Saunders and Swede Fanny Roos both also threw past the 19 metre mark, while Chinese qualifier Gao Yang upped her season best with her 18.80.

The women’s final will now take place on Sunday.

Meanwhile in the triple jump, Dominica’s Thea Lafond set a new national record with her huge 14.60 jump. It was the third best jump overall, seeing her safely qualify through to Sunday’s final.

Yulimar Rojas of Venezula jumped the longest of the night, with a 14.77.

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